EDISON PARK — Three Far Northwest Side aldermen Monday praised Mayor Rahm Emanuel's decision to tap Chicago Police Department Chief of Patrol Eddie Johnson to lead the organization facing a spiking crime rate and federal civil rights investigation.
But Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) called Emanuel's rejection of the three superintendent finalists picked by the police board a "fiasco" and a "debacle" that has been "somewhat embarrassing for a first-rate city like ours."
Sposato, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) and Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), who was a police officer for five years before joining the fire department, said they were pleased with the selection of Johnson, who they said has a stellar reputation among rank-and-file officers.
"No one has anything bad to say" about Johnson, who has been deputy chief of patrol since 2012 and commanded the Auburn Gresham district on the South Side for four years, said Sposato, who represents parts of Portage Park as well as Dunning.
Villegas said Johnson had a reputation as someone who is a "fair person" who doesn't "grandstand."
Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th), who represents Sauganash, said she was pleased the mayor chose a new leader from within the department's ranks.
"I believe this will help morale within the department,” Laurino said in a statement.
Ald. John Arena (45th), who represents Jefferson Park as well as Gladstone Park and parts of Portage Park, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the mayor's decision.
Sposato, Villegas and Napolitano said they were pleased Emanuel chose a long-time member of the department to lead it.
“As soon as it came out, my phone started blowing up with messages from officers who live in the 41st Ward who were excited and thrilled,” Napolitano said, praising the mayor’s decision not to pick any of the three finalists selected by the police commission.
Napolitano said he wasn't concerned about the disorderly selection process — only that the mayor made the "right decision" that would boost officers' morale, which Napolitano said was at an all-time low.
"This was a great job by the mayor," Napolitano said. "He picked a great candidate, who will absolutely boost morale."
Napolitano and representatives of the police union have blamed the white-hot criticism of officers by both the news media and the members of the Council in the wake of the release of a dashcam video showing a police officer fatally shoot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times for hurting officers' confidence and pride in their work.
“The Department is prideful,” said Napolitano, who represents Edison Park and Norwood Park, where many police officers live. “And the superintendent should be one of our own.”
Villegas and the council's Latino caucus last week and called for the mayor to reconsider making Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante the department's permanent leader.
Sposato and Villegas said Emanuel's handling of Escalante — who applied for the top job, but was not selected as a finalist by the police board — was troublesome.
"I don't like how he treated Escalante," Sposato said. "It was a real slap in the face."
Villegas said handling of Escalante's application and time in the top job at the Department heightened his concerns about Emanuel's record of hiring Latinos for the top jobs across the city.
"I'm troubled that the administration hasn't done a good job achieving parity for Latinos and Latinas in employment and appointed positions," Villegas said, adding that he is especially concerned about the situation at the City Colleges of Chicago. "I'm not satisfied at all."
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